Tag Archives: writer’s block

The Muse Takes a Holiday

Some call it Writers’ Block. Others refer to it as a simple lack of inspiration. What happens when you just don’t know what happens next in your story? The words won’t come. At all. What is the author of the next Great American Novel to do?

Of course, there are lots of suggestions out there. Take a nap. Fold the laundry. Phone a friend. I’ll be the first to confess that most of these “tricks” are merely avoidance techniques. But why do I procrastinate with something that I love to do?

I’m certain that there is a deep psychological meaning behind it, but I refuse to research that right now, maybe it could be the subject of my next book.

In fact, research may be at the root of the blocked imagination. When I don’t know what should happen next, it’s often because I have no idea what would happen next. I haven’t researched that deeply into the technicalities or history of the subject. On the other hand, sometimes I find that I’ve researched so much that I don’t care anymore. Yes, it’s often the mystery that keeps me going.

If research isn’t the problem—if I just don’t know how my protagonist would respond in a particular situation—maybe I need to get to know him or her better. I could write a scene, completely separate from my story, in which my lead characters are all trapped in an elevator somewhere between floors of a Metropolitan high-rise. What do they say? How do they treat each other? What do they smell, see, or hear? Sometimes writing out these little vignettes can trigger something that will propel the stalled work-in-progress.

Another solution may be to skip to the next scene that I know, and write that. The idea is that having that next goal in sight may shed light on the path to get there. Or… it may not be that I have writers’ block at all, but that I’m trying to write too much. A minute-by-minute account of my hero may just be boring. Experiencing a stall may be an indication that I should skip that part. If the next scene makes sense without it, it’s highly likely that a reader would skip it, too. Leave it out. Write tight.

I hope that these suggestions help—I just thought of something…

Kimberly Black



Filed under Writing

Just Do It!

For years, the slogan Just Do It has been synonymous with Nike. It is the primary marketing slogan of the athletic shoe and apparel giant and the simple phrase is recognized worldwide.  The genesis of the slogan was Nike’s effort to encourage, prod and cajole potential customers into working out, thereby creating a need for Nike products.

Do your writing projects need encouraging, prodding or cajoling?  Have you been affected by the plague of death for writers?  I’m talking about writer’s block.  There are two schools of thought on writer’s block.  One school believes that writer’s block is a very real condition, which prevents writers from being able to produce creative, well-written prose.  The other school refuses to acknowledge the existence of writer’s block.  They see it as an excuse not to write.  I cast my lot with those in the second camp.

The fact of the matter is, with precious few exceptions, writing is work.  It is hard work.  Those who wait for inspiration to strike before writing are usually doing only one thing when it comes to their writing.  They are not writing.

Richard Nordquist authored a very interesting piece on overcoming writer’s block.  “Read a lot.  Write a lot.  Have fun,” can be found at About.com.  Nordquist offers five steps to overcoming writer’s block.  Here are some excerpts from that article.

1. Get Started

  • “The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.”

Mary Heaton Vorse

  • “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.  The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” –Mark Twain

2. Capture Ideas

  • I carry a notebook with me everywhere.  But that’s only the first stop.  Ideas are easy.  It’s the execution of ideas that really separates the sheep from the goats.”  –Sue Grafton

To expand on Grafton’s thought, in today’s world of technology, many of us are never without our Smart Phones.  Use the note pad application on your phone to capture thoughts and ideas until you can put these ideas to paper.

“I’ve often said that there’s no such thing as writer’s block; the problem is idea block.  When I find myself frozen—whether I’m working on a brief passage or brainstorming about an entire book—it’s usually because I’m trying to shoehorn an idea into a passage or story where it has no place.” –Jeffery Deaver

3. Cope With the Badness

  • “You don’t start out writing good stuff.  You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it.  That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.” –Octavia Butler
  • “If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.” -Margaret Atwood
  • “Don’t get it right, just get it written.” -James Thurber

4. Establish a Routine

  • “I only write when I am inspired.  Fortunately, I am inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.” –William  Faulkner
  • “Close the door.  Write with no one looking over your shoulder.  Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say.  It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.” –Barbara Kingsolver

5. Write

  • “If you want to write, write it.  That’s the first rule.” -Robert Parker
  • “My block was due to two overlapping factors: laziness and lack of discipline.” -Mary Garden
  • “Planning is not writing.  Outlining—researching—talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing.  Writing is writing. –E.L. Doctorow

Nordquist summed up his thoughts on overcoming writer’s block when he quoted Daniel Pinkwater in the title of his article: Read a lot.  Write a lot.  Have fun. I agree wholeheartedly.

Two things I have learned in the last year as I completed my first novel are: First, as Jack London said, “You can’t wait for inspiration.  You have to go after it with a club.”  Second, as I’m learning now, John Irving was right when he said, “What I’ve always recognized about writing is that I don’t put much value in so-called inspiration.  The value is in how many times you can redo something.”

As you contemplate the next step in accomplishing your writing goals, remember, it starts with putting something on the page.  Nike got it right.  Just Do It!

Matt Sherley

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Filed under basics, read, writer's block, Writing, writing advise

Six Ways to Defeat Writer’s Block

Are there times when you feel like your muse has deserted you?  Days when the writing just won’t flow?  Don’t despair; there are plenty of methods you can use to pull yourself out of the slump.  Here are a few  I’ve used:

1.  Change your writing routine.  If you usually write in the mornings, try moving the time to evening .  If you usually write at home in your office or den, move to a favorite coffee shop.  This forces your mind to work in a new way and sparks new ideas.

2.   Do some people watching.  Go to your favorite place like the mall or a park, any place where people gather.  Take your laptop or a pen and paper and write character sketches.  Listen to the conversations of those around you.  Observe their body language and facial expressions.  Keep these notes in a file for future reference to help develop new characters.

3.  Have an imaginary conversation with your main character.  Would they like your favorite place?  What would they want to talk about?  What did you learn about them?

4.  Describe a scene in nature.  Take that scene and drop your main character into it.  How would they feel while observing this scene?  Would they find it comforting?  Would they hate it?  What new things did you learn about that character?

5.  Write a piece of flash fiction Write down a short list of random words–a proper name, nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs–all completely unrelated to each other and use them in the story.  Do this in less than 500 words.

6.  Write a short story.  Take your main character or your villain and start a storyline unrelated to your work in progress.  What have learned about your character by doing this?  Or did you get an entirely new idea for a book?

What is your method for getting back on track with your writing?

Suzanne Bogue

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Filed under characters, description, flash fiction, methods, short stories, story, techniques, writer's block, Writing, writing advise